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The Health Benefits of Journaling and Why You Should Start Jotting Down Your Thoughts

Renee Yang

Did you know that journaling can help our bodies mentally and physically? Here is why journaling is the ultimate self-care tool for nourishing your body and soul.

Self-care is currently having a moment, and journaling seems to be making a comeback along with it! But aside from giving us an outlet for our emotions, does journaling have actual health benefits?

Well, as we’ve become more educated about mental health, scientists are finding that the benefits of journaling extend much further than what meets the eye. In addition to boosting our creativity and productivity, journaling can help regulate our mood and improve our long-term health!

How? Here’s the science behind it.

What is journaling?

First, let’s define what journaling actually entails. Journaling is defined as a recording of personal thoughts, experiences, and insights that are often written as a conversation with oneself.

While productivity, creativity and food journals all count, they are a little different because they come with specific goals. For overall health and wellness, journaling is more about writing down your thoughts exactly as they are. You will gain the most by allowing your brain to meander on its own.

How journaling benefits us

Journaling benefits our health primarily by helping us understand our minds better. Similar to meditating or going to therapy sessions, it gives our brains a rare opportunity to process past events, especially ones that bring us anxiety.

By writing down and elaborating on our feelings, we are able to clarify exactly what’s in our head, instead of letting it live free and fester (we all know how that goes).

This is actually very similar to a process called affect labeling, which is commonly used as a tool in psychology. By identifying our emotions, we decrease activity in our amygdala (our brain’s emotional center) and gain better control of our emotions. This method has been proven to help us deal with distress by forcing us to self-reflect and think about things objectively.

Essentially, journaling makes us more mindful and introspective. By slowing down our thinking, it calms our minds to provide a sense of peace.

It also helps us grow as people

This brings us to another huge benefit of journaling - it gives us a healthier and more objective perspective that helps us grow as human beings.  

Researchers have found that we think more than 50,000 thoughts per day, with 90% being repetitive and 50% being negative. This is because when we don’t take the time to reflect, we often let our emotions take over. As a result, it is super easy to settle into negative patterns that we aren’t even aware of.

Journaling helps us become more self-aware and emotionally intelligent, freeing up space in our brain that otherwise would’ve been occupied by negative thoughts. In turn, we not only become more mindful but also more creative and productive in our lives.

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How does this affect our physical health?

A healthy mindset is much more powerful than you may think. It’s true, journaling can actually benefit us on a biological level because the health of our minds and bodies are so closely connected.

Here’s the proof:

It helps us sleep better

It’s no surprise that brain diseases are often associated with a suboptimal sleep routine, but journaling is here to help! Good sleep is one of the main pillars of a healthy body, and scientists have proven that journaling helps us get better sleep.

One study showed that by writing a to-do list for the next day, people fell asleep faster by 9 minutes on average. As we process our thoughts through writing, we end up taking some workload off of our brains. By giving us more clarity on what’s to come and less to worry about, journaling helps us fall asleep faster and better.

It strengthens our immune system

Time and time again, scientists have connected journaling with stronger immune systems.

In addition to being connected to an immune cell called T-lymphocytes, journaling has been shown to decrease our levels of stress hormones. And the results are amazing.

One study found that patients showed “clinically relevant changes in health status” when they wrote about their experience with asthma or rheumatoid arthritis. Another found that journaling helped those with arm biopsies heal much faster than those who didn’t write about their experiences. As patients became less stressed about their injuries through writing, their bodies were able to amp up the healing process.

How to Start Journaling

With so many health benefits, you’re probably itching to get out that journal that’s been collecting dust. Here’s where to begin:

1. Don’t overthink it

The first rule of journaling is to give up control. Journaling is for you and yourself only. This should be a space where you can be 100% honest without thinking about how your writing comes off or what it says about you. Journaling is about exploring your mind without judgment or boundaries. So it’s important to give your brain the space to go where it wants to. A good place to start is to just start writing.

2. Schedule in your journal time

Much like meditation and therapy, journaling can only help if it is done in a consistent and methodical manner. While writing your thoughts down for just 15 - 20 minutes can help, it’s important to make it a habit if you want to see long-term results.

Morning Pages is a popular journaling method that involves doing 3 pages of stream-of-consciousness writing just after waking up. This allows your mind to reset in the morning and gain some clarity for the rest of the day. But the timing is really up to you - just remember to be consistent!

3. Experiment with how your journal

Ultimately, journaling is a way to have productive conversations with oneself. So how you journal shouldn’t matter, as long as it is helping you get to a better place.

If you find it hard to just start writing, look to prompts or start making to-do lists for yourself. This is a tool for your mind and well-being, so feel free to experiment and adjust as you go!

 

 

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